Jamie Babbit’s ‘The Quiet’ (2005)

19Mar09

Jamie Babbit’s psychological drama The Quiet about a deaf girl who is told a very dark confession isn’t nearly quiet enough.

The film follows Dot, a deaf-mute teenager who moves in with her godparents The Deers following her father’s death. Though the family may look perfect from the outside, the walls of their new house contain many dark secrets. Olivia struggles with an addiction to pain pills, and Paul and his daughter Nina share an incestuous relationship. When Nina realizes that Dot has actually been faking her hearing and speaking loss, she confesses to Dot that she plans to kill her father, leaving Dot in a quandary about whether she can and should tell someone.

If a filmmaker isn’t going to make a great movie about a subject like incest, then it should be avoided, else the result will most likely be a shallow, derivative presentation such as this one. The material concerning Dot’s deafness could have been interesting but it becomes buried by the ultimately superfluous question of “Will Dot tell anyone about the planned murder”? The Quiet does a couple things well, namely showing how characters relate differently to Dot because of her supposed deafness, but not well enough to redeem itself. If you’re looking for an interesting movie about incest or deafness, I would pick up Spanking the Monkey, Chinatown, Read My Lips, or Children of a Lesser God before this film.

While the script definitely fails to create dramatic tension, the casting doesn’t help matters either. The cast consists of young “up-and-comers,” such as Elisha Cuthbert (24, The Girl Next Door), Camilla Belle (The Ballad of Jack and Rose), and Shawn Ashmore (The X-Men Trilogy), and veterans Martin Donovan and Edie Falco. With the exception of Donovan, everyone seems miscast and out of their depths with this material, and ultimately the script cheapens Donovan’s sympathetic portrayal of Paul with its hackneyed conclusion.

The Quiet is as different from Babbit’s queer classic But I’m a Cheerleader as she can get. I’m inclined to blame Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft’s script over Babbit’s direction for this lackluster film, but I would suggest to Babbit that she stick with the queer campiness in the future.

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